do the following overheard conversations have in common?
On the bow of the Titanic:
“Hey, what’s that big white thing?”
At Ford’s Theatre:
“Mr. Lincoln, you’ll love the second act of the play!”
Michael Jackson, to his plastic
surgeon in 1984: “Doc, make
me look like LaToya!”
In Washington, DC:
“If we just work the Redskins harder, they’ll have an awesome
You guessed it.
They were all said prior to illustrious disasters.
As we know, some disasters are more
disastrous than others. But
in the world of professional football, the Redskins’ meltdown qualifies
as one of the wonders of the 2001 season.
Over the first three games of this
season, there has been only one team in the NFL that hasn’t even put up
a fight. Guess who it is.
No, last years’ 1-15 Chargers are 3-0 right now.
Bengals, owners of the
worst record of the last ten years? No,
Cincinnati is 2-1, and have already beaten the defending Super Bowl
champion Baltimore Ravens.
How about Cleveland, the newest
expansion team? No, the
Browns are also 2-1, and putting up quite a nice fight, thank you.
So you guessed it again.
The Redskins have been outscored 112-16 so far.
The way they’re playing, they would have trouble winning the SEC.
The most flummoxing thing about the
Redskins is the quality of their personnel. On paper, they look
competitive; they have Pro Bowl caliber players at tight end, running
back, corner, and defensive line. Their
offensive line is anchored by two of the finest young tackles in the
league. They have tall
receivers who run well and present matchup problems for shorter defensive
As for effort, first year coach Marty
Schottenheimer has been working them like those poor folks raising the
obelisk in Cecil B. DeMille’s “The Ten Commandments.”
So why do they suck?
(Um, sorry.) So why
aren’t they getting results?
There are a number of reasons, but the
most pressing is that the players haven’t bought into Schottenheimer’s
system; they don’t believe that he is putting them in a position to win
on the field, and they feel like he has saddled them with rigid rules off
the field that make it harder to concentrate on the task at hand.
Ultimately, belief is the foundation
of a team. And belief can come and go through the smallest
For example, there is something to be
said for working young players into the dust, but there is absolutely no
reason to pound older veterans the same way.
They already know what to do and how to do it; they need to hone
their skills, not incessantly hammer their bodies.
And since older bodies don’t recover
as quickly, any gain that extra hitting in practice provides is usually
more than counterbalanced by diminished physical capacity come Sunday.
But we’re only three games into the
season, right? Well, look a
In training camp, future Hall of Famer
and 16-year veteran Bruce Smith injured his shoulder—during a live
hitting drill when he was blasted by Mookie Moore, a second year offensive
lineman who didn’t even make the team.
A drill like that is important for a young player like Mookie.
But do you think Bruce Smith needed that live drill to be ready to
play in September?
I didn’t think you did.
The key is, neither did the rest of the Redskins players.
The coach’s credibility faded with each step that the injured
Smith took as his teammates watched him walk off the field with a look of
pain and disgust on his face.
Then there is Darrell Green, another
lock for the Hall of Fame at cornerback.
corner, to be specific. That
means that Darrell, all 41 years old of him, contributes by running with
an opposing wide receiver.
Darrell has shown during his record
setting career that he is willing and able to throw his body into the fray
when necessary. But his value
to the team is in his finesse, not his hitting.
Oh, and did I mention that he is 41?
So why then, during that same training
camp, did Darrell Green have to do the Oklahoma drill?
You know--the drill where there are two cones five yards apart, a
runner, a blocker, and a defender. It is the most brutally physical
drill in football.
Teammates see the look on those
veterans’ faces. Keep in
mind that young players look to the veterans for guidance. Those vets--not
the coaches--were the young players’ heroes when they were wide-eyed NFL
wannabes in high school and college.
When those faces silently say that the coach is nuts, it has an
(It doesn't matter whether the coach
really is nuts; it only matters whether players think so.)
Combine that with off-the-field rules
that the players resent, like assigned seating on the team plane. Or being forced to have a roommate at the team hotel, even if
that roommate snores like Rosie O’Donnell snoozing after devouring a
large pepperoni pizza. (Okay,
sorry; that was unnecessary.) Or
having alarms on the dorm rooms after curfew at training camp.
These used to be grown men, weren’t they?
The problem is this:
If a new coach treats respected, Pro Bowl caliber veterans like
this, and the team wins, it’s all chalked up to tough love. But when the result is starting 0-3 while being outscored
112-16, then it adds up to players wondering if the coach has any idea
what he’s doing.
And when they wonder that, there is no
Players don’t mind being pushed and
disciplined. But if they
don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel with regards to results,
they just feel punished. Their
focus goes over from winning to surviving.
And when it does that, there is no
They see that last year’s defense,
ranked 4th in the NFL, is now dead last at 31st.
They see that last year’s offense, ranked in the middle of the
pack, is now…you guessed it, dead last at 31st.
When players wonder if the coaches are
taking their offense and defense in the right direction, there is no team.
In an interview by CBS' Armen Keteyian
for last Sunday's NFL Today, Bruce Smith was asked if the coaching staff
was losing the players' confidence. Smith said that he wouldn't
answer the question.
That’s the problem with the
Redskins. They have a lot of
But they have no team.